The Capitol Dome

The Capitol Dome 55.2

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 4 of 71

its symbolic function, one which Hollywood filmmak- ers have long grasped as a backdrop and signifier for our politics and government. Before the days of genuine location shooting in Washington, studios resorted to photographic or filmic backdrops to evoke the capital. An early example was the anti-corruption drama Washington Merry-Go- Round (1932), which showed newsreel material of the era's Bonus Marchers and imposed protagonists against stock footage of the Capitol and its plaza. Gabriel Over the White House (1933) used newsreel footage of an actual presidential swearing-in (FDR's first inaugural on the East Front of the Capitol) to stand for the oath taking of a Depression-era radical reform president (Walter Huston). e first major Hollywood production to use real— and extensive—D.C. location footage was Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), "the" Washing- ton movie to which all subsequent D.C. films would be compared. (is film's Capitol content will be discussed in section II). Between the years 1940 and 1960 there were many fewer movies made on location and outside the Holly- wood studio system. It was also a much more open and innocent time, so, when movie companies considered shooting in Washington, the doors were rather open, as was access to the Capitol. Of course, the actual Senate and House chambers have always been off-limits (the nation's official legislative business must not be dis- turbed, aer all), but other areas could be negotiated. Fig. 2. Billie Dawn (Judy Holliday, left) is led down the Capitol steps on the House side by mentor Paul Verrall (William Holden), who is providing her a crash course in democracy in the comedy Born Yesterday, in the days when access to filming at the building was more open (1950). THE CAPITOL DOME 3

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Capitol Dome - The Capitol Dome 55.2